Unless you're lucky enough to live somewhere with off-street parking, a weather forecast that calls for several inches of snow means that you should probably start thinking about where you're going to put your car.
Providence bans all street parking during snowstorms, as do many other Rhode Island communities. If you're new to the state, or it's your first winter living in a building that doesn't have its own designated parking area, it can be hard to figure out what you're supposed to do with your car.
Some cities listed below, like East Providence and Pawtucket, publish lists of municipal and church parking lots where you can leave your car during a storm. In Providence, however, you'll have to pay to leave your car in a garage or parking lot unless you're able to find a free alternative on your own.
How much snow are we getting?: Check out these blizzard predictions
There's some interest in rethinking this system, but in the meantime, here's what you need to know.
Blizzard Updates: McKee declares emergency, orders travel ban
What alternatives to street parking are available during a parking ban during a snowstorm in Providence?
The city's website has an interactive map of places where you can park during a snowstorm. However, it's somewhat limited: All the options are either downtown or on the East Side, and all charge for parking.
A handful of Reddit users put together a crowdsourced spreadsheet last year that lists prices for many of the recommended parking lots (most charge $20 or $25,) as well as a few additional paid parking options.
If you live on the West Side, you're in luck. The Armory District is testing out a pilot program that allows you to leave your car on the even-numbered side of certain streets during a snowstorm. Just make sure to move it to the opposite side within eight hours of the parking ban being lifted. Find a map of eligible streets here.
Other options for parking in Providence during a snowstorm:
The Rhode Island Convention Center's website currently states that the South Garage "will be closed until further notice," but that's no longer accurate and will be updated, according to spokeswoman Veronica Van Jura. Both parking garages that serve the convention center and Dunkin' Donuts Center are open during snowstorms, though regular rates ($20 for overnight parking) will apply.
The Providence Place Mall is another popular place to leave cars. Rates are set at $20 for 8-20 hours, and $25 for 20-25, according to the mall's website.
While it's not in Providence (as the mayor of Warwick would be glad to remind you,) T.F. Green International Airport can be a convenient place to leave your car during parking bans. Rates run from $17 to $32 a day, depending on whether you want to leave your car a covered garage. The MBTA commuter rail and several RIPTA bus lines will take you back to Providence.
Can you park at schools, city parks or the hospital during a parking ban?
You may have heard rumors that you won't get towed if you park in the garage for the Providence Public Safety Complex, at a school, or in other city-owned parking lots like the one at India Point Park.
That's not recommended, however.
"Parking at the public safety garage is limited to public safety vehicles or visitors doing business in the public safety complex during business hours," city spokeswoman Theresa Agonia wrote in an email. "Residents should not be parking in any park or public school parking lot as these parking areas need to be plowed."
Another suggestion that's repeatedly come up in online discussions is the garage at Rhode Island Hospital, which is considerably more affordable than the convention center or the mall. But there's a reason for that: It's intended for people who are undergoing outpatient treatment or visiting patients at the hospital.
To avoid creating issues for patients and hospital visitors, people shouldn't leave their cars "for days or more than the overnight hours," said Lifespan spokeswoman Kathleen Hart.
Don't want to pay for parking? Here are some strategies to try
Your landlord isn't legally required to provide you with a place to park, but it's worth asking if they have any recommendations. They may be able to tell you what tenants have done in the past, or even have space for you to park at another building that they own.
If you usually park at work, you may be able to leave your car there, as long as you're able to move it before the plow company shows up. Alternatively, your boss or coworkers may have a driveway at their house that they'll let you use, especially if you volunteer to help with shoveling.
You may also want to scope out your neighborhood for businesses that have their own parking lots, and see if they'll let you park there for the night. (It helps if you're already a regular.) Churches and community centers are also a good bet.
It's possible that there's already a go-to spot for off-street parking in your area, so ask around or start a discussion on your neighborhood Facebook group or Nextdoor.com. As a general rule, though, you'll want to check whoever owns that parking lot before you go ahead and abandon your car.
Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Catholic Church in Fox Point has a reputation for allowing people in the neighborhood to park in their lot during storms, for instance. However, a receptionist cautioned that anyone looking to do so should call and get permission because the church does tow unfamiliar cars.
Where to park (for free) in Pawtucket during a parking ban
The city of Pawtucket has published a map of more than two dozen places where you can park for free during a snowstorm, including a number of schools and city-owned lots.
Cars must be moved within two hours of the parking ban being lifted, unless you want to be fined and towed.
Where to park (for free) in East Providence during a parking ban
Earlier this year, Mayor Bob DaSilva reminded residents that "should a dreaded parking ban be instituted we make our public parking lots available for off street parking."
His Facebook post contains a full list of locations — including many of the city's parks and schools.
Cars must be moved two hours after the parking ban is lifted, so that those lots can be plowed.
Where to park (for free) in Bristol during a parking ban
Bristol has designated ten "snow emergency parking lots". Locations include the Prudence Island Ferry parking area, Guiteras School, and the Cup Defenders' Association. Find the full list here.
Cars must be removed within one hour once the parking ban ends.
This article originally appeared on The Providence Journal: RI snowstorm: Where you can leave your car if there is a parking ban